By Charlie Kimber
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Post Office scandal: meet the bosses who should pay

The Post Office could face insolvency—and it’s linked to its treatment of sub-postmasters and mistresses
Issue 2888
Picture of a post offce

Over 700 postal workers were wrongly convicted for stealing money (Picture: bazzadarambler on Flickr)

Underpaying taxes, overpaying bosses. Those are the most recent charges about the Post Office.

It could be facing a £100 million bill and insolvency. It claimed tax relief for its compensation payments to the sub-postmasters and mistresses who were wrongly prosecuted and viciously hounded.

The tax treatment might have caused the company to report artificially high profits, potentially boosting bonuses for the executives who presided over the brutal treatment.

Courts handed more than 700 Post Office operators criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Fujitsu continues to seize government contracts. The people in charge during the scandal were a typical selection of those who dominate the corporate world—rich, privileged, connected to political power and devoted to profit. They grab interconnecting directorships and float above the lives of ordinary people.

They infest top circles of both the Tory and Labour parties. The Financial Times newspaper says, “The Post Office’s directors had glittering public and private sector credentials.” They should all pay.

Tim Parker Post Office Chair 2015-2022: Parker led the board as it continued aggressively to fight legal claims by sub-postmasters about injustice. Trade unions had labelled Parker the “Prince of Darkness” after job cuts during his corporate and private equity career.

He turned up at the headquarters of AA in the early 2000s for a meeting to announce redundancies, driving a spanking black Porsche 911.

At Clarks, the shoe manufacturer, he became chief executive and promptly fired 5,000 people.

At car firm Kwik Fit, he dumped workers, and the luggage maker Samsonite slashed a third of its staff in his first three years at the helm. Parker was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London. 

Parker went to Oxford university before becoming a Treasury economist under Labour chancellor Denis Healey. He chaired the Oxford University Labour Club in the 1970s and claims to being “quite on the left of the spectrum” as a student.

Carla Stent Post Office board 2016-23: Stent is on the board of Evelyn Partners, accountants to Rishi Sunak.

Stent was a Post Office non-executive director for seven years and chair of the board’s audit, risk and compliance committee. 

After top boss jobs at Thomas Cook, Barclays and Virgin Group she sat on several company boards, including chairing commodities broker Marex Spectron and Savernake Capital.

Alice Perkins Post Office Chair 2011-2015: Perkins led the board as concerns mounted about the Horizon system and the prosecutions carried out by the Post Office. She is a former senior civil servant and is the wife of former foreign secretary Jack Straw.  

Zarin Patel Post Office board 2019-2023: Patel sits on the boards of Anglian Water Services, recruiter Hays, and the National Trust and is a member of HM Treasury’s audit and risk committee. She was previously chief financial officer of the BBC. 

Paula Vennells Post Office Chief executive 2012-2019: Vennells defended the Horizon system as evidence mounted of miscarriages of justice against sub-postmasters. She told MPs in 2020 that Fujitsu had assured the Post Office board that Horizon was “not perfect” but was “fundamentally sound”. 

In 2019 Vennells joined the UK Cabinet Office board and received a CBE. She resigned from the boards of supermarket WM Morrison and retailer Dunelm in 2021 after a court quashed the convictions of 39 sub-postmasters. 

Richard Callard Post Office board 2014-2018: Callard replaced Susannah Storey as the government’s representative on the board in 2014 and remained until 2018 as the scandal continued to unfold. He worked for the Shareholder Executive in the government business department and is an executive director of its successor body UK Government Investments. 

Adam Crozier Royal Mail chief executive 2003-2010: Crozier chairs BT and previously led the Football Association and ITV.  ITV’s devastating drama that highlighted the Post Office scandal does not mention Crozier’s role.

During his time leading Royal Mail, the Post Office was a subsidiary. Crozier was in charge when Computer Weekly first reported on the Horizon scandal in 2009. He said this week he had no involvement in the Horizon issue. 

Allan Leighton Royal Mail chair 2002-2009 Leighton led the Royal Mail board before it split from the Post Office and while sub-postmasters were prosecuted and pressured to make payments to cover “shortfalls” that had shown up in Horizon. 

He departed two months before the first media report on the Horizon scandal. He was previously CEO of Asda and boss of Walmart Europe. He is now on the board of the Co-op Group. 

Twenty years ago Socialist Worker wrote that Leighton combined, “a readiness to spout management theory bollocks—such as ‘always look for the jewel in the toad’s head’—with a steely readiness to wage class war.”

“Leighton is heading management resistance to postal workers getting a decent pay rise. He says he isn’t a fat cat, and asks how many other top managers get just £30,000 a year.

“But Leighton can happily take this “modest salary” from Royal Mail (plus £165,000 bonus this year) for his two-day week because he has so much money sloshing in from elsewhere. 

“He is a director of nine other companies. The combined base salaries of this clutch of directorships is around £750,000. But that’s only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Every year one or more of these firms comes up with a juicy bonus.”

In 2001 the Department for Trade and Industry revealed that Leighton was a Labour Party member.

Sir Donald Brydon Post Office chair 2009-2011: The former Barclays banker replaced Allan Leighton as Royal Mail chair just as the Horizon scandal was becoming public. 

He later chaired the London Stock Exchange Group and was commissioned by ministers to review the audit profession after a governance scandal at Carillion in 2018. He chaired FTSE 100 business and accounting software company Sage Group from 2012-2021.

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